Idah Mtunduwatha has worked as a community health worker (CHW) with PIH in Neno District, Malawi, since 2017. A mother of one, Idah’s responsibilities include providing health education and screening services to her assigned households, visiting patients with non-communicable diseases and HIV to ensure they are taking their medicines, and following up with patients who have lapsed from care. But, to one of her client’s children, Idah is far more than just a CHW.
Mary (a pseudonym) was one of Idah’s patients before her death in March 2018. Mary lived with HIV for many years. She was widowed and received little support from family members. When her health began to fail, she asked Idah to help look after her children whenever she was hospitalized. Throughout the last year of Mary’s life, Idah was the closest companion Mary had. Idah would escort her to the hospital, look after the children and make sure that Mary’s children who were also living with HIV were taking their medication daily.
Whenever Mary was admitted to the hospital, she would get support from Partners In Health through the POSER program (Program On Social and Economic Rights). The program provided Mary with food while she was in the hospital. With the help of a private donor, PIH was also able to build Mary a house last year, as the lack of proper housing for her and her children was a source of great concern especially as her illness worsened.
Sadly, when Mary passed away, the only adult that her children were close to and could rely on was Idah. The children now turn to Idah for help with their problems, and often visit to play with the children in her household.
With the passing of their mother, Mary’s children now have to navigate new relationships with their family members who are becoming more present in their lives. Idah has been there with them, helping with this transition, providing relatives with information about the children’s health and encouraging them to take care of their medical needs while making sure that they continue to attend their clinic appointments.
“…we are able to bring smiles and happiness to the less privileged…”
Reflecting on her role as a CHW, Idah said: “I am thankful to PIH for the services it is providing to Mary’s children. Without this support the children would have suffered a lot… I am humbled to have this job as it is through this job and other types of support that PIH provides that we are able to bring smiles and happiness to the less privileged like these children. Although they lost their only parent, I am glad we can help them feel like they still have her here.”
For more perspectives and stories from the past year please see the PIH Canada 2018 Annual Report. This post was adapted from Idah’s story in the report.